Although the start of World War I had a major impact on the game and, obviously, the world, there were still plenty of baseball headlines to take note of in 1918.
Charlie Hollocher Leads National League in Hits
The scouting report on Charlie Hollocher when he joined the Cubs in 1918 was that he was a fine-fielding shortstop, not much of a hitter, and pretty shaky upstairs. The scouts were wrong on the second count, dead accurate otherwise. He posted a .316 average and a National League-high 161 hits in 509 at-bats that year, nailing 23 doubles, six triples, a pair of home runs, and 38 RBI. In 1922, his last full season, he hit .340, led all National League shortstops in fielding, and fanned just five times. He took a gun to himself 18 years later with fatal results.
Hippo Vaughn All Alone at 22
Because the curtain closed the 1918 regular season on Labor Day, reducing the number of games played by some teams to as few as 124, Hippo Vaughn of the Cubs was the lone National League hurler to win in excess of 20 games (22 victories). Two other Cubs, Lefty Tyler and Claude Hendrix, won 19 contests that year, giving the Bruins three of the National League's top five winners.
Benny Kauff Departs Early
The leading hitter on the second-place Giants in 1918, Benny Kauff played just 67 games before his season was ended by a military call-up, turning in a .315 average, two home runs, and 39 RBI. Almost every team suffered at least one key loss that year to Uncle Sam; no club, however, was hit harder than the defending champion White Sox, who lost Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Eddie Collins, and Happy Felsch (among others) and fell to sixth place.
Art Nehf Hurls 20 Scoreless Innings
Art Nehf was an excellent pitcher who fell just a shade short of stardom. He posted a 2.69 ERA in 284 innings in 1918, hurling 20 scoreless innings against Pittsburgh on August 1 only to lose 2-0 in 21 frames. His last major league appearance came with the Cubs in the catastrophic seventh inning of game four of the 1929 World Series, when the Philadelphia A's tallied ten runs. Nehf had pitched in four Series with the Giants prior to that performance, becoming the New York ballclub's lone hurler to win 20 games during the run when the Giants copped a National League-record four consecutive flags.
Zach Wheat Takes National League Bat Title
Two years after he topped the National League in total bases, Zach Wheat in 1918 became the last player to lead the senior loop in batting (.335) without hitting a single home run. To deepen the mystery, he collected just 18 extra-base hits and scored only 39 runs that season. Come 1920 and the arrival of the lively ball era, he jumped to 48 extra-base hits and 89 tallies.
Jeff Tesreau Calls It Quits after the War
Jeff Tesreau was one of the few players who did not return to the majors upon completing his part in the war effort (he closed his career with a 4-4 record in 1918, striking out 31 batters and posting a 2.31 ERA). Indeed, most major leaguers came through the experience virtually unscathed. Of the handful who perished, perhaps the most promising was Ralph Sharman, a young outfielder with the 1917 A's who died in the influenza epidemic.
To read highlights from the 1918 baseball season, see the next page.
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